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January 19, 1990 - Image 86

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-01-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Glenn Triest

Rabbi Chuck Diamond and friends.

R a 1) in
Rab b i

Mouse ears, dolls on his
desk, and a trip to the
principal's office as a
reward? Rabbi Chuck has
made Hebrew school `fanner'
at Shaarey Zedek.

88

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 1990

KAREN A. KATZ

Special to The Jewish News

earing enor-
mous, furry
moose slip-
pers and a
kippah with
mouse ears attached, a rabbi
from fantasy land walked in-
to Congregation Shaarey
Zedek. Hebrew school will
never be the same.
Rabbi Charles M. Diamond,
who prefers to be called Rab-
bi Chuck, is the new assistant
rabbi and director of educa-
tion and youth at Shaarey
Zedek. Holding up a hand to
still the applause when he
was introduced to lead the in-
vocation at a sisterhood
brunch in September, he
quipped, "Save your applause
until after Hebrew school this
year." But the accolades are
already coming in from
parents, teachers and
students alike.
On the first day of Hebrew
school in September, parents
sporting antennae on their
heads directed children to
their classrooms. Rabbi
Chuck told the kids, "Tell
your parents you had a real-
ly awful day at Hebrew
school, but that you can't wait
to come back." And they did.

"There's an air of excite-
ment in school," said Dottie
Wagner, chair of the Shaarey
Zedek education committee.
"People are seeing that
something new is going to
happen. We've only had a cou-
ple of education committee
meetings, but they've been
jam packed. I expected maybe
six to 10 parents at our first
meeting and 27 showed up. I
understand that none of the
12th graders has missed a
class yet. I know of a child
who was sick one Sunday and
was very upset to miss Sun-
day school.
"Now I'm not saying
everyone is racing to Hebrew
school, but I have heard that
the kids are beginning to
want to go," she said.
Rabbi Chuck works under
the philosophy that Jewish
education can be "fun and en-
joyable for kids at the same
time that they're learning a
lot, but that they want to be
here. So my goal is, removing
the parents from the equa-
tion, the kid that's given the
choice will say, 'Yes, I want to
go to Hebrew school.' " Rabbi
Chuck, who speaks from ex-
perience, dropped out of
Hebrew school after seventh
grade because he thought it
was a waste of time.
"I went to Hebrew school

Monday through Thursday
and on Sunday when I was a
kid, and I didn't enjoy it very
much. I continued to go to
shul every week and I enjoyed
Judaism, I just thought
Hebrew school was a waste.
With that background in
mind, I'm looking to make it
an enjoyable experience for
the kids. Something that's
worth their time because they
have so many things pooling
on their time right now,
whether it's baseball, foot-
ball, music or whatever it
might be — a million different
things. So that if it's not
worth their while they are go-
ing to resent being here and
they're going to want to be
somewhere else."
Rabbi Chuck says his
background is in informal
education, including 15 sum-
mers at Camp Ramah in
Canada. For the past six
years he was assistant rabbi
and director of the Hebrew
high school and youth pro-
gram at Temple Israel, a con-
servative synagogue in Great
Neck, N.Y. Enrollment in the
high school doubled from 70
to 140 as students brought
their friends to class.
"Kids were arguing with
their parents over Hebrew
school," he said. "The kids
wanted to come, and the
parents weren't so crazy
about it. The kids were miss-
ing it over the summer. Dur-
ing the school year, they'd sit
in school counting the hours
to Hebrew school. The kids
really felt a sense of purpose.
About 40 of those kids were at
my wedding weekend and the
ruach (spirit) they had was
amazing.
"The strength of our pro-
gram there was the combina-
tion of the formal, what goes
on in the classroom, and with
the informal, what's going on
outside of the classroom and
I see both as being important
and part of the curriculum.
That's where my camp ex-
perience comes in handy, us-
ing time not only inside the
classroom, but getting kids
outside the classroom also.
And just making it exciting so
that the kids never know
what to expect when they
come to Hebrew school," he
said.
Before school, after school,
during the break — even dur-
ing class time, kids never
know what to expect from
Rabbi Chuck. Just before
Rosh Hashanah he took all
the kids outside and set up
two highway cones in the
parking lot. He called them
the cones of foregiveness. The
kids threw frisbees, casting
away their sins, trying to hit
the cones of forgiveness.
"When no kids hit the cones,

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